Capilano University teachers start job action

Capilano University teachers will be withholding students’ grades from the administration as the first step in job action.

The Capilano Faculty Association gave strike notice last week after contract negotiations and mediation failed to net an agreement.

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Teachers will be leafleting on campus Wednesday and are planning a rally for next week with an eye to further escalating job action to a full-scale strike, according to Brent Calvert, faculty association president.

Students will still be able to submit their work and faculty will grade it but the marks won’t be entered into the university’s system for transcripts, granting degrees or graduation ceremonies, all of which could be postponed as a result.

“There is a possibility, depending on how long it is before we can reach an agreement, that students will be a little bit in limbo but there should be, if everybody does their job, no permanent damage — just delay,” said Eduard Lavalle, the faculty’s chief negotiator.

Word of the job action came as a surprise to Parveen Mann, Capilano University’s director of human resources. “This is news to me,” Mann said. “I’m very disappointed to hear that.” The timing is also unfortunate, as there are only two weeks remaining in the semester, Mann added.

The two sides have come to agreements on a wage increase of 5.5 per cent over five years — the same as other publicly funded post-secondary teachers — as well as an academic freedom provision in the contract.

But the union’s demand for more control over layoffs would interfere with the board of governors’ ability to plan which courses will be offered and budgeted for, Mann said.

“We have a very robust board with informed people who make all those budgetary decisions and the proposal that’s been tabled essentially would restrict the board in being able to fulfill its responsibilities,” she said. “We’ve expressed to them that’s a firm position and we think their issues have been addressed.”

In the meantime, the university is looking into what options it has to mitigate the job action and see that students can graduate on time.

Mann said she is confident the two sides will reach a deal. “At the end of the negotiations we had expressed to them very sincerely that we understand the parties have a little bit more work to do and that we were open to discussions with the mediator or without the mediator and that we wanted to continue our discussions with them,” she said.

News of the strike came as little surprise to Brittany Barnes, Capilano Students’ Union president. “Honestly, we’ve been preparing for and expecting (this) for a long time. We never take the conversation of a potential strike lightly,” she said. “I’m disappointed in the effect this might have on students.”

Even if the students receive their grades and there is no long-term impact, the uncertainly is causing undue stress on the students who are already under a lot of stress, she said.

The students’ union doesn’t take a side in the dispute but Barnes said they are anxious to see the matter resolved. “We obviously want there to be a fair contract in place and something that’s realistic for the university given their financial situation. We do not want students’ academic careers impacted or damaged by this whatsoever,” she said.

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